I’m very particular about how my Microsoft Word documents look. If you are picky like me and are sick of making the same tweaks and changes over and over again, why not save time and hassle by using a custom style.

This article is based on Microsoft Word 2007. The steps will be similar for other versions but some of the buttons may in different places.

On the home tab you can see a “styles” box, usually on the right hand side. If you click on the small expand arrow in the bottom right hand corner of the box this will bring up a list of all the styles in your current document. The list will usually come up and float over the right hand edge of your screen, but you can drag it to make it lock into the right of your document window.

At the bottom of this styles list there are three buttons. The left hand button lets you create a new style.

Click on this new style button and the “Create new style from formatting” dialog box will open.

"Create new style from formatting” dialog box

At the top you can set

  • the name of the style,
  • the type of style (generally I only ever use paragraph styles but it will depend on your specific requirements),
  • which style to base your new style on,
  • and which style should appear automatically in the next paragraph after your style.

This last feature is particularly useful for header type styles, so you can tell Word to go back to normal text without having to change styles yourself. 

You can set the main formatting options such as font, font size, and line spacing easily from the main dialog box. But for full control you will need to use the format menu at the bottom right hand corner.

Format menu in the “Create new style from formatting” dialog box

This will allow you to set the formatting for the font, paragraph, tabs, border, language, frame and numbering just as you would if you were editing a document.

You can also add your style to the quick style selection box in the home tab for easy access when editing a document.

Creating styles can be even more powerful if you are setting up your own templates for documents that you need to produce regularly in the same format. Don’t forget to make sure that the radio box in the “Create new style from formatting” dialog box is set to “New documents based on this template” so that the styles are passed on to your new documents.

Styles are a powerful way to manage your formatting in Microsoft Word. Used properly they will save you hours of time and keep your documents much tidier and looking better.